National Security & Defense

Don’t Include Women in the Draft

U.S. Army troops with Second Battalion, Fifth Cavalry Regiment, and Croatian soldiers stand in front of the vehicles they used in the exercise Immediate Response combined-arms live-fire demonstration at Eugen Kvaternik Military Training Area in Slunj, Croatia, May 26, 2021. (Sergeant Joshua Oh/US Army)
This change in policy would negatively affect our ability to institute a draft in a time of national crisis.

In the name of progress, we have lost sight of the original purpose of the institutions, policies, and procedures we are attempting to advance. The latest example of this nonsense is the debate to require women to register for Selective Service. This proposal would not increase the effectiveness of the institution, the policies supporting it, or the procedures of executing the draft.

Did any of the people advancing or considering this idea stop and ask themselves what the purpose of the draft is? Of course not. If they had, they would have quickly realized that this change in policy would hamper our ability to institute a draft in a time of national crisis. However, for proponents, that is beside the point. Progress, for them, simply is any blow they can strike against the values and traditions of our country in the name of “social justice”; consequences be damned. Why any Republicans are going along with this is a mystery; do they realize they’re getting played?

To understand fully why this is a bad idea, we need to know why we have a draft in the first place, and when it has been used and might be used again in the future. The Selective Service’s mission is “to register men and maintain a system that, when authorized by the President and Congress, rapidly provides personnel in a fair and equitable manner while managing an alternative service program for conscientious objectors.” Critics are quick to point out that the exclusive reference to only men is clearly a problem in today’s modern, progressive society. But they neglect to ask the obvious: Why only men?

In a time of national crisis, when we have to take a relativity small number of military personnel and rapidly expand it, efficiency in screening, selection, and training is paramount. Rich Lowry, in his piece on this same subject, ably explains the physical differences between men and women. With even the most basic of research — or quite frankly just the experience of living on the planet earth — it becomes painfully clear that requiring women to register for the draft would not reduce the cost and time required to rapidly expand our military in a crisis. In fact, it would further complicate that process. This is also why the Selective Service registration age is 18–26: trying to find physically qualified candidates in their 40s or 50s would be possible but not worth the additional effort. Perhaps the Selective Service process is ageist as well as being sexist. I am sure the AARP will be quick to add this slight toward the elderly to its fundraising drives.

Women do currently serve quite admirably in a wide variety of missions, including a very limited number in combat arms. So on the surface, to the casual observer or an educated one trying to obfuscate the truth in the name of progress, women registering for Selective Service would seem like a great idea. I will refer you back to Lowry’s piece, where he aptly points out that women are less than 17 percent of the military and a tiny number of combat-arms roles. The question is not whether women can serve in key military roles (even in a time a national crisis), as that clearly has been answered in the affirmative. It is whether their addition to the Selective Service process is a net positive toward instituting a draft.

Let’s imagine a scenario where we might need the draft again. It is highly unlikely that a conflict with Iran or even with North Korea would rise to that level. This is in part due to the scope of those conflicts, but also due to the lack of those scenarios being perceived as a fundamental threat to our survival as a nation. But a war with China could threaten not only our national survival but also the survival of the Western world. It seems impossible to imagine a war with China not expanding to a global conflict, resulting in tens of thousands of casualties in the first year alone, if not hundreds of thousands.

What would we require from a draft in this scenario? The closest historical example would be the draft numbers from World War II, where we drafted over 10 million men into service. In such a scenario, we need lots of combat troops — and quickly. As discussed already, the percentage of women currently serving in combat-arms roles is less than 1 percent of the total. How exactly would one justify including women in the draft to achieve less than 1 percent of the combat-arms roles we need? Even the vacuous and expansive concept of “equity” would have trouble justifying that.

Now of course, we could draft women into noncombat jobs. But there are a few problems with this on the equity front from those claiming to be “reforming” Selective Service. Using their own argument of equality, why would women not be forcibly drafted into combat-arms roles? Maybe they are advocating this. But then the cost and time to screen, select, and train these women for combat-arms roles would be significantly greater than for an all-male pool. Let me remind you, we are talking about a possible war with China, not some minor skirmish with a non-state actor. Adding women to the draft obviously weakens the whole reason why we have a Selective Service department. Call me old-fashioned, but when it comes to the survival of our nation and the Western way of life, this form of “equity” needs to take a backseat.

It is worth noting that nothing is preventing women from volunteering for service in this scenario, even signing up for combat-arms roles. Keep in mind that in World War II, over 16 million Americans served in uniform throughout, so roughly 6 million volunteers were part of the uniformed services and countless millions more signed up for the civil-defense forces or other government programs. There would be roles for women in these functions, if they want them.

But there remains ample justification for not drafting women for noncombat functions. If the entire intent for women registering for Selective Service is the quaint notion of fairness in a global-war scenario with China, someone needs to explain to me how it would be fair that men would be forced in greater numbers than ever into the more dangerous combat-arms roles. For every woman drafted for a noncombat arms job, that is one less noncombat arms role for a male draftee and one more man who has to be drafted for the combat-arms role. Meaning the percentage of men being forcibly conscripted for combat jobs only goes up with women as part of the draft process. If you think the solution is as simple as increasing women’s roles in combat arms, let me remind you of NPR’s recounting of the Marine Corps study on that. Nobody has refuted that mixed-gender combat units perform worse; we just ignore it as an inconvenient reality in our march toward progress.

What a great and fair way of conducting a draft: We get all the additional costs of conducting a draft with women, and men get to pay an even higher share of the burden of war. I am sure our new Chinese overlords will take into account our fair and equitable treatment in instituting the draft during our defeat as a nation, and our morally superior progressive friends will reap all the good will from that gesture. I would prefer to keep that gamble off the table and remember why we have a Selective Service in the first place. “Progress” shouldn’t mean making an existing system worse. I would think this might be even more poignant when it comes to a major global war with a near-peer competitor, with the survival of the Western way of life at stake. The draft is fine the way it is.

Robert M. Berg is an active-duty combat-arms officer, a commissioned officer of 20-plus years, and was an enlisted infantryman for three years before that. He has served all over the world, from lowest-level tactical units all the way up to strategic planning at the Pentagon. Robert M. Berg is his pen name.


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